Economy Hurts Young Adults Looking For Their First Job
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And there may be a lot more new college graduates applying for jobs in retail. We're going to hear why in the next few minutes.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
As part of our coverage of youth unemployment this summer. Let's hear from two guests who work with younger Americans still trying to find their first jobs. Each has a very different challenge because each works with a very different group of young people.
MONTAGNE: For Courtney Hawkins, it's how to help low-income teenagers get the credentials they need to get a job. She's vice president of FEGS, a health and human services agency that, with programs like the Bronx Youth Center, serves thousands of students and those who've dropped out of school. Also joining us is Roberto Angulo. He is a co-founder of San Francisco-based company After College. It's an online networking site that matches college graduates with potential employers. Welcome to both of you.
COURTNEY HAWKINS: Thank you.
ROBERTO ANGULO: Thanks, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Let me begin with Roberto Angulo. Is it really harder now to find a desirable job than it has been traditionally?
ANGULO: It's definitely harder. You know I started After College - co-founded a little over 15 years ago when I was a student myself, and back then it was sort of difficult getting a good job. You had certain majors that were still getting jobs. So for example, if you were nursing student you almost didn't have any difficulty in getting a job. Now fast forward and what we're seeing is that even the health care students are having trouble finding jobs, and I think it's just because this downturn affected a broader spectrum of the population.
MONTAGNE: Let me turn to you, Courtney Hawkins, because there are some teenagers and young adults for whom a high school diploma would be the plan -it is the plan. But is the time over when a young person can realistically enter the workforce with a high school diploma and still have a - a solid working life ahead of them?
HAWKINS: To really earn a living wage and get on a career path that's going to sustain a family really requires at least some amount of postsecondary training. We see for young people that don't have that - it's very hard to get a higher-level wage job. And for young people that haven't earned their high school diploma, particularly in New York City where we are, it's almost impossible to get any kind of job because many employers now that have very entry-level jobs that typically would have been available for a young person are now able to put on kind of new requirements, because it's really an employer's market. And so for an entry-level retail job they'll tell you you need a high diploma and two years of experience for the position. But there is no real place to kind of cut your teeth in the workforce like there used to be in the past.
MONTAGNE: And how much does that impact long-term prospects?
HAWKINS: It's tremendous. I mean, we know - if you think about what your first job was, no matter how related as to what you are doing now, you learned some really important life lessons in that job. And so we know that work is a really important developmental milestone for young people and what we see here is that there's really a generation of young people who aren't having the opportunity to kind of earn that developmental milestone. So they're not learning those important life lessons early on and what the research shows us is that the longer you delay your attachment to the workforce, the harder it's going to be later on to kind of be unemployed or have more sporadic employment. And so we know it is important for 16-, 17-, 18-, 19-year-olds to get wor,k and what we see at our Bronx Youth Center, is now those 17-year-olds who couldn't get a job four years ago are now 21 and still haven't got a job, and are coming to us, and have missed four years of work experience that really would've propelled them into a higher future earnings opportunity in the future, the opportunity to have experience for their resume, the opportunity to build relationships with supervisors who are going to give them recommendations - all of those things are really critical for young people as they grow up and kind of lay out they want their career path to be.
MONTAGNE: Is there a difference, Roberto Angulo, for those who have a college degree in hand?
ANGULO: I agree with Courtney. Anecdotally, we're seeing students who are taking jobs that may not require the education they received in college. Jobs in retail and food service - those - you might not even need a high school degree - but these are the jobs available and we're seeing a lot of students taking these jobs just to earn money and - and so, like, Courtney said, to acquire those work skills.
HAWKINS: Yeah, and that's where the two populations are really related. Those are the jobs that typically would've gone to high school students and that's really I think the difference that we've seen as a result of this recession is this kind of compression of young people out of the labor market, because people are taking jobs that maybe they previously wouldn't have taken because they have a higher credential.
ANGULO: At the same time, I would add to that, that even people who had been out in the - in industry and have years of experience who are unemployed are taking these jobs as well. So what we're seeing I think is - is - is high school students, college students and grads competing with also people who are already in industry who are - who are also being forced to take these jobs
MONTAGNE: Roberto Angulo of After College, speaking to us from San Francisco, speaking to us from New York, Courtney Hawkins of FEGS' education and youth programs. Thank you very much for talking with us.
HAWKINS: Thank you, Renee.
ANGULO: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: You are listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.